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The NSW Independent Casino Commission kickstarts activities

The head of the NSW Independent Casino Commission, which came into force on Monday, has warned NSW casinos that they will not be able to hide from the authority, which will impart “very severe” punishments for wrongdoing.

The NICC will have unprecedented powers to monitor casino activities and act against operators who engage in misconduct, targeting money laundering and other criminal activity.

Under new laws, casinos face fines of up to AUD 100 million, and senior executives and board members will be personally liable for wrongdoing they know about, but fail to stop.

Chief Commissioner Philip Crawford, the former chairperson of the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA), stated the game has changed for casinos in NSW: “We’re keeping in touch with them and they know we’re on the game and they know we know what we’re doing”, he said, as reported by 9 News.

“We’re going to be a lot more vigilant and we’ll have many more tools to assist us in that process. The ability of casinos to hide things from us, which they’ve actively done in recent years, will not be available to them”.

The commission’s first major task will be to consider the findings of the review into The Star casino and its suitability to hold a license. Crawford has received the report from Adam Bell SC and expects to release an initial response in the coming weeks.

NSW Minister for Hospitality and Racing Kevin Anderson said on Friday the new agency’s most pressing task would be to consider the findings of the report but he would not rush chief Crawford to brief him on it.

At the months-long Bell review, lawyers assisting argued the venue was unsuitable to hold a license and it was told of the controversial use of Chinese debit cards and links to Macau-based junket operator Suncity.

The review was also told of the misleading of banks and an illicit cage that operated in an exclusive high-roller room known as Salon 95. The legal team for Star Entertainment, which owns the establishment, contended it was a suitable entity after a clean-out of senior management.

Several Star managers resigned during the review, including chief executive Matt Bekier, CFO Harry Theodore, chief legal and risk officer Paula Martin and Chief Casino Officer Greg Hawkins.

“We were handed a very large document last week and need to consider its contents in light of the new, retrospective casino laws”, he said, as reported by the Australian Associated Press.

Another priority is the continuity of supervision and ongoing assessment of recently-opened Crown Sydney’s suitability for a permanent casino license. Its gaming operations opened last month at its Barangaroo tower after the company was forced to overhaul its board, management and procedures.

"There is simply no appetite for further misconduct and along with increased resources, we are supervising both casinos with the help of independent monitors, Kroll and Wexted Advisors, who are keeping a close eye on the internal operations of the Crown and The Star respectively," Crawford said.

In July, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) was provided additional powers to hold the casino operator to account, which have now come into effect, and could fine the business for up to AUD 100 million.



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